India Pale Meeples: Brew Crafters (Dice Hate Me Games)

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I jokingly warned everyone at the start of our inaugural playthrough of Brew Crafters (Dice Hate Me Games, 2015), the newly released worker placement Euro about, um, crafting brewskis, that brewing the Pumpkin Ale recipe would result in immediate loss of the game. Because, really, that stuff is awful, an abomination to all right-thinking people. But then, after I had installed hop infusers in my fledgling brewery, to increase the value of ales, and cornered the market on fruit, I realized that brewing Pumpkin Ale was a very winning strategy. So, yes, I brewed a ton of the vile stuff and felt only slight shame. Such are the hard decisions in this quite pleasant game about operating a craft brewery.

Thirsty, thirsty meeples!

Some Euro-style games have themes that only tangentially relate to their mechanics, but Brew Crafters is one of those rare spiels that marries the two quite nicely thanks to the beer recipes at the heart of the gameplay. In the Market Phase, players place workers on spaces providing ingredients (malt, hops, yeast, and specialty fare like fruit and coffee), money, or special workers who alter game rules; these spaces may only be chosen by one player at a time, providing a nice adversarial aspect to the game. Then, the Brewery Phase allows players to conduct brewery research, build brewery components like a brewpub and oak barrel aging racks, and assemble the ingredients into differing types of beer, with each recipe requiring a different combination of ingredients and each being worth a varying amount of reputation. The highest reputation at the end of the game wins.

A close-up of the Chris-Craft Brewery

Gameplay is quick, about half an hour per player. Our four player game ran only slightly over two hours, and that even includes time spent getting real beers from the fridge to complement the beer chits we were brewing. The components are above average for a Euro, with a ton of wooden cubes, a handful of traditional wooden meeples, several sheets of die cut cardboard counters, fifty-odd standard-sized cards, and a two-toned wooden glass of stout as a first-player marker. The box is chock full, well worth the $60 retail price just from a component standpoint alone. Throw in engaging worker placement gameplay on a theme near to my heart, and, well, this one is a keeper. There are multiple paths to victory (one of the players in my session tried to crank out as much of the cheap stuff as possible), and there are over twenty different kinds of beer recipes in the game, so there’s a nice degree of replayability in the box as well.

When I saw the demo copy at Labyrinth Games and Puzzles on Capitol Hill, my Fine Local Game Store, I knew I had to have it. I’d drink a toast to Brew Crafters, but I already have . . .

Beer Notebook: Flying Dog's Dead Rise Summer Ale

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Flying Dog Dead Rise Summer Ale

Spices in beer don’t typically impress me. I’m not looking to a beer for coriander or clove, and I’ll take just about any style over a wheat beer. But when I heard that Flying Dog, out of Frederick, Maryland, had teamed up with the folks behind Old Bay Seasoning to create Dead Rise Summer Ale, well, I needed to sample this unlikely pairing.

For those not in the natural habitat of Old Bay Seasoning, imagine a salty paprika mixture, rust red in color, typically sprinkled on crabs with abandon and rather tasty on popcorn as well. It’s a bold taste, pronounced but not spicy-hot, one that can dominate, so to pair it with a drinkable beer is a testament to the brewer’s art.

Termed a summer ale, Dead Rise is a wheat beer with a characteristic clove and banana aroma tinged with just a hint of paprika. It drinks quite smoothly, again apropos of a wheat beer, and the effect of a quaff is not unlike eating Utz’s “Crab” Chips, which are coated in a similar spice mixture, the bready nature of the wheat beer capturing the flavor profile of the chips. Which is not to say that drinking Dead Rise is like drinking potato chips—it’s a quite drinkable beer with a very slight paprika aftertaste on the palate. The Old Bay Seasoning sneaks up on you rather than forcing its presence onto the scene.

I had hoped for an unfiltered beer, with succulent paprika sediment, but alas, this is a filtered brew. At 5.6% ABV and restricted to the summer season, Dead Rise would make a nice accompaniment to a cook out. Given my general aversion to wheat beers, I’m not likely to pick up another six pack of this beer, but it’s another bold experiment from Flying Dog that does what it says on the tin . . . er, bottle.

Some Suds with Your Slapshot?: Verizon Center's New Beer Menu

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Beer & Hockey by Brad Lauster on flickr.com via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike LicenseIn July, Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals, promised to bring better beer to the crowd at Verizon Center. Given the price of beer there, it’s the least he can do.

Doing what journalists do best, Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post‘s D.C. Sports Bog labored to compile a listing of where each of the beer choice is available this season at the Verizon Center, home of the Capitals.

Not surprisingly, mainstream domestic beers predominate the list.

Beer snobs quickly pointed out that having Bud, Bud light, Bud Light Lime, Bud Light Wheat, Bud Select 55, Michelob, Michelob Amber Bock, Michelob Light and Michelob Ultra is like bragging about the incredible variety of Wonder Bread available at your brand new bakery.

But there were more than a few beers on the list that we’d all like to drink, leading to the next problem.

That problem being, of course, where to find the superlative suds. Dan Steinberg’s comprehensive location guide will help once you’ve narrowed down your decision.

Looking over the beer list, I have to confess that I don’t see much new from my visits last season. Kona Fire, Czechvar, Starr Hill, and Fordham Copperhead are the only selections I don’t recall. Still, the location guide will be handy for my next visit this year. Section 424 beer stand, here I come!

(Image courtesy of Brad Lauster via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike license.)